Faith And Reason In The Enlightenment

1639 words - 7 pages

Faith and Reason in the Enlightenment

One of the most important reasons that the issues involving faith and reason were present during the years that the Enlightenment took place in Europe was because of a group of men known as the philosophes. The philospohes, a word which is french for philosophers, were the thinkers of the Enlightenment Era. Initially, the philosophes were not accepted by the majority of the Europeans, who had already established their own firm beliefs which stemmed from the traditional beliefs of Christian Europe. After the Revolution in the American colonies in 1775, some Europeans began to embrace the new ideas and ways of thinking introduced by the philosophes. The philosophes claimed that they were bringing the light of knowledge to ignorant fellow humans during the age of the Enlightenment.

The philosophes had the most amount of success and the largest following in France. The main reason for the philosophes success in France was because french was the official language of the educated class, and these were the people who were most interested in what the philosophes had to say. These french philosophes were no doubt philosophers, frequently asking "fundamental philosophical questions regarding the meaning of life, God, human nature, good and evil and cause and effect" (McKay 603). The philosophes were not interested in just sharing their new ideas with the educated class in France, but strived to reach all economic and social elites of not only France, but the remainder of Europe as well. Many of the philisophes joined together in the eighteenth century concept to create an educated and enlightened public where everyone had the opportunity to hear what the philosophes were debating during this time and no matter what social status a person had acquired, they always had the opportunity to hear what the philosophes had to say. The philosophes were a part of the upper class in Europe, which made up only a minute percent of the population in Europe at the time. These men believed that the majority of common people were "doomed to superstition and confusion because they lacked the money and leisure to look beyond their bitter struggle" (McKay 604).

The philosophes were not immediately accepted by the majority of the European governments. These men, as well as others who attempted to imitate what the philosophes were attempting to do were not permitted to write freely as they wished. This was because during the time of the Enlightenment it was illegal to openly criticize either the state or the Church in France. As a result, writers circulated their radical works through written manuscripts. Direct attacks placed on the government or in reference to the Church were either banned or burned. Because of these restrictions place upon the philosophes, the men incorporated their strong beliefs and opinions into novels, plays, philosophies, encyclopedias, and dictionaries to spread their...

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